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State pushes plans to open recreational marijuana retailers into 2025

Delaware Public Media

Updated timelines project recreational marijuana retailers will open in March 2025, four months later than initially expected.

The Marijuana Control Act outlines a series of timeline projections for issuing the necessary licenses, expecting retail licenses to be granted 19 months after the law’s effective date.

Although the law was enacted in April 2023, Marijuana Commissioner Robert Coupe told the Joint Finance Committee the necessary documentation for the act was posted in August.

Initial predictions expected retail and testing licenses to be issued in November 2024. The new timeline expects licenses to be awarded in March 2025.

Coupe says they are working on legislation to create conversion licenses, allowing the current 13 medical marijuana providers to begin serving the recreational market, but says they are considering delaying that service until the new retailers can also become operational.

“It’s good for fairness and the competition; it’s good for the market. Because if we just open those 13 retailers today – if they’re providing for 17,000 patients, and suddenly the market jumps to 85,000, and they can’t meet the need – what we don’t want is we don’t want all of our medical patients to go in and the store be sold out," he says.

Coupe is referring to the current 17,000 medical marijuana patients in Delaware and the projected 85,000 adults in the recreational market.

He also says the office is looking into a lottery system to decide which marijuana establishments can set up shop in the state.

Although the Marijuana Control Act outlines using a competitive scoring process, Coupe says similar programs in other states have been sued over fairness.

Instead, the office is suggesting those who complete a basic qualification application be entered into a lottery, and if selected, the company would receive a conditional license.

“It is a, we believe, a more fair and equitable process. Otherwise, to do an initial application, having to line up a business and all those kind of things, it’s not going to be practical," he says.

There are at total of 125 licenses to issue:

  • 60 for indoor and outdoor growing operations
  • 30 for businesses that manufacture gummies, candies, oils, and other non-leaf products
  • 30 for retailers
  • 5 for testers facilities

Coupe says the office plans to finalize its rules and regulations by July 11 and will begin receiving applications by September 2024.
If there is an estimated 2 applicants per license, the state is poised to make $754,000 solely in application fees and an additional $758,000 in licensing fees if all 125 licensed are issued in fiscal year 2025.

Coupe adds if the legislature decides to implement the medical marijuana conversion licenses, they could generate $1.15 million to $5 million depending on the assessment formula used by the state.

The office predicts annual marijuana sales to reach $281 million, with an expected $42 million generated in tax revenue for the state.

Although several municipalities have already banned marijuana business, including Rehoboth Beach, Bethany Beach, Dewey Beach, Seaford, Dagsboro, and Millsboro in Sussex County alone, Coupe says the office isn't concerned with the bans affecting sales.

"I don't see that as an issue so much. It's just going to determine where these locations are set up. Obviously if a town creates an ordinance that says 'no retail, no manufacturing, no cultivation, no lab testing,' they won't be in there towns — they'll be in county areas. Counties cannot have the option to opt out," he says.

Timeline for Implementation and License Type:

July 11, 2024 - Final Rules & Regulations
September 1, 2024 - Commissioner may begin receiving license applications
October 1, 2024 - Commissioner may begin to issue licenses
November 1, 2024 - Commissioner may begin to issue license for cultivation
December 1, 2024 - Commissioner may begin to issue licenses for manufacturing
March 1, 2025 - Commissioner may begin to issue licenses for retail and testing licenses

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.
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